Famed (Jewish) singer-songwriter Paul Simon just wrapped up a concert in Israel tonight. Simon recorded an album live in Caesarea on May 7, 1978, and his September 1983 visit to the land of milk and honey is attested to in the archive. One of Simon’s contemporaries, however, may not be selling tickets in Israel anytime soon.
Today is Yusuf Islam’s 63rd birthday, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens. After the Camp David peace accords that advanced peace between Israel & Egypt, his song "Peace Train" was added to an unofficial peace record in 1978.
In 1988, before he converted to Islam, the Islamic movement brought Cat Stevens to perform in Israel. Stevens’ remarks and support of the PLO during that visit were cited by the Interior Ministry of Israel when they barred him from entering the country in 1990. He was also turned away in 2000 and again in 2008, when a scheduled performance at the Peres Center for Peace was cancelled.
In 2004, Yusuf, who holds British citizenship, was denied entry into the U.S. Yusuf maintains that he was a victim of a misspelling on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s watch list. One week later, a Toronto newspaper reported that a video from Yusuf’s 1998 address to the Jerusalem Fund for Human Services — a Hamas-linked organization –showed him calling Judaism a "so-called religion." When two British newspapers publicly supported the U.S. decision, Yusuf responded by suing them for libel. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, and Yusuf was subsequently allowed to enter the U.S. from 2006 on.
The question remains whether Yusuf will ever be invited, allowed and still interested to perform in Israel under his new name. (He currently performs using his first name only). One factor that may not endear him to Israeli powers-that-be: his 2009 fundraising track for Gaza relief following Operation Cast Lead raised money for UNRWA, an organization that was critical of Israel‘s role in the Gaza War.
Until or unless reconciliation takes place, your best bet to find Paul Simon and Yusuf together might be Comedy Central.
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